Metaphors and similes are an imaginative galaxy which greater minds than mine have explored. That doesn’t stop me gathering dazzling and original examples to enliven human exchange, expanding the choice of vigorous, beautiful ways to sharpen how we think, read, write and speak.

Folded in

Folded in

Something about this loose, large mixing of sky into sea that evokes a huge basin in which a celestial cake of light, air and water is being made.  I arrive late one night beneath a loose black sky lazily folded into the sea. Source: Justin Marozzi, The Man Who...

Sitting pigeons

Sitting pigeons

You can see these pigeons plumply decorating the trees - we have wood pigeons who bill and coo in the branches, and indeed, they bring a soothing sense of fattened plenty with them. The pigeons were sitting in the trees like fattened Christmas decorations.Source: Adam...

Over-qualified

Over-qualified

A simile for someone being over-qualified for a given task.  From Nicolson's enchanting book about Sissinghurst.      It was like having the engineer on the Aswan dam supervise the building of your pond.  Why was he doing it?Source: Adam Nicolson, Sissinghurst: An...

As an apple fits a dumpling

As an apple fits a dumpling

A beautiful simile for something fitting perfectly into a circular space.  In this case, the something is a someone, the marvelous Mij, an otter celebrated by Gavin Maxwell. Mij mastered taps and baths, and it was hard to keep him away from them.  Mij had an instant...

Late for school

Late for school

A delightful simile for a late-landing spring, that of a boy running to school.   It also reminds me of another description of a delayed spring bounding in.  It was the end of April, and the belated spring was flushed and warm, like a youngster who has run all the way...

Amber-eyed glow

Amber-eyed glow

What a beautiful pair of eyes this young man must have had, like amber with the sun treacle-gold behind.  See another example of amber glow. The young Greek's eyes glowed like lumps of amber with the sun behind them.  Source: Louis Golding, Good-bye to Ithaca (London:...

Someday the history of metaphor will be written and we shall at last grasp all the truths and misconceptions in which this intensely speculative subject abounds.  

Source: Jorge Luis Borges, On Writing, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2010, p. 45

Thoughts as shells

The thoughts of poets likened to two types of shell, those that come from the depths and those that are washed up on shore and so exposed to the elements. ...

The ground beneath your feet…

Having just re-read a beloved book about the Arctic, this resonates. The fear, loneliness and disorientation of a young girl whose world has been capsized is summed up in a...

The press and vice

An extraordinary and vivid image of sin as something that forces pain to infiltrate every vein.  Given the more pious age in which Herbert wrote, and his own great piety,...

Wrung from the soul

Maggie Tulliver is a deep-feeling woman of painful sincerity, and here words are wrung from her, with a wrenching simile.

'These words were rung forth from Maggie's deepest...

As moderate as …

A measured, precise, unfussy speaker, this farmer.  I also liked the idea of his not melting the snow where he treads, as if he is himself made of this clean,...

Waiting for the pub to open

Puffins are curious and unafraid of humans, and very sociable among themselves. I loved this image of their crowding around your boat, like drinkers hovering at the pub door.

 

...

Like sticks of barley sugar

It's years since I saw a stick of barley sugar, and this perhaps dates Donald Hall's otherwise quite timeless writing. But I like the resemblance of a tower to a...

Killing flies in midair

Memorably describing the oratory of one of several colourful, eloquent characters in Ruiz Zafón's The Shadow of the Wind, a book I read in Barcelona, the city where it takes...

Germany as jigsaw

This may be the metaphor of the month: I keep imagining the aftermath of an explosion in a jigsaw factory.   And if you have ever struggled, as I am...

The brimming basin of the sea

When I read this description of the sea I thought immediately of the photo you see featured here, which I found a few months ago.  I also like the inclusiveness...

The mind’s cheap tunes

A sharp way to capture the Groundhog Day repetition of pointlessly churning regrets and anxieties: like a jingle you can't get out of your mind even though it brings no...

How many lifetimes does it take to learn the facts of life?  

(And how long do you have to live to recover from them…?) 

Is it fact that helps us recover – or is it metaphor?  

Source: Molly Peacock,The Paper Garden (London: Bloomsbury, 2012), p. 63 – click here for the bestellar review of this glorious book.

The thinker, with his metaphors, will illuminate the external world through intangible ideas that for him are intimate and immediate.   

Source: Jorge Luis Borges, On Writing, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2010, p. 6

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